Aniedi Effiong is familiar with the speaker series events organized by the AGSM Graduate Student Ambassadors. Not long ago, he was among the UCR students attending these online discussions, making connections, learning from business professionals, seeking opportunity.
Now working in the Amazon Pathways program, an accelerated path to senior leadership, Effiong ’21 MBA, had an opportunity to return the favor to his alma mater during a recent discussion with Graduate Student Ambassadors. Effiong offered insights into his role leading five managers and about 400 team members at an Amazon center in Dallas. He encouraged students to keep pursuing their dreams as they seek internships and jobs.
“I was at the other end of this call, some two years ago. … I would say, please do not give up. Do not give up,” he said, noting he was familiar with the disappointment of receiving rejection letters. “Sometimes I still go into my inbox, and I just look at them, just to remind myself that, yeah, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
As an international student from Nigeria, Effiong received an offer to join the Amazon Pathways program while he was working on his MBA at the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management. He now works as outbound operations manager at a 1-million-square-foot warehouse, where he is responsible for five departments.
“My job revolves around safety, people, and innovation,” he said.
This includes making sure his team goes home safely at the end of the day, that orders are processed correctly and delivered on time, and that people on his team can grow in their careers.
He described the gratification he felt when he helped one of his team members accomplish an advancement in three months when it often takes up to two years.
“I think we underestimate how well we do when we do right by people,” Effiong said. “Just seeing the smile on people’s faces based on the decisions that you make is one thing that gives me delight on my day-to-day role.”
The power of people skills
The team of managers he leads is diverse, and the full team of about 400 at the facility comes from all over the world. They also represent a wide range of ages, cultures, and perspectives, he said.
This means that, in addition to learning technical skills, good leaders must also sharpen their people-management skills, Effiong said.
“A plan is only as good as it’s execution, right? And it’s the people who execute,” he said, noting that the ability to listen and cooperate is essential for working with a diverse team.
“Empathy—understanding people’s conditions and just being open to hear them out—is something that many people lack,” he said. “Many people are not patient. They’re not kind. They’re not respectful. So that says a lot, especially when you're dealing with people from different cultures.”
At the same time, his role at Amazon requires him to always think on his feet.
“Every day is a new challenge,” Effiong said, noting he often gets up at 4:30 a.m. Even though his workday does not start until 7, he likes to see how well the night shift kept up with processing orders. That way he will know if he needs to add or reduce day-shift staff.
That’s just the first in a series of decisions that will keep him busy until 5:30 in the evening, four days a week, as he continues through the Pathways program toward becoming a general manager.
“It’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s fast-paced,” he said, noting one of the benefits of working for Amazon is that the company is supporting his efforts to move from an F1 student visa to permanent labor certification.
“I’m sure international students would understand, when you are going into the job market, you’re not looking at whether you get employee discounts as one of the factors you’re considering at that time,” Effiong said. “You're looking for an organization that can essentially sponsor your visa.”
Effiong encouraged students interested in the Pathways program to apply as soon as possible.
“When is the best time to apply? I think the answer is yesterday,” he said. “There are early application rounds, and you want to be in that slot.”
Effiong said he remains grateful for his education at UCR, where he learned technical skills, landed an internship, and discovered the importance of networking—something he never had to do during his undergraduate experience in Nigeria.
“You cannot make it here without networking,” he said.
“Keep turning in your applications, keep doing the right things. Keep doing what you’re doing. Whatever you sow, that’s what you reap. … So just keep sowing, keep sowing.”